Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Cow Protection in a Cold Climate

This winter we are having below freezing temperatures. The cows have grown furry coats to keep them warm. Some of them are hard to recognize in comparison to how they looked in the summer with their sleek shiny coats.

They voluntarily go outside the barns in the cemented area between the geriatric barn and the old barn, but they are not going as far as the barnyard. They prefer to stay close to the food, shelter, and water.

Because the temperatures have been well below freezing (one day it was -20 below 0), there is ice almost entirely sealing the water troughs that must be broken twice a day even though we have trough heaters. This afternoon the ice was so thick in one trough that I could only break some of it. With slightly lower temperatures the next day, the water heater was more effective.

Dwadasi taking a drink before I broke the ice

While I feel that I am fighting for survival in the cold and snow, I will see a cow standing in the cemented area chewing her cud covered in snow with some of it freezing on her ears and chin. She will remain contented, as if it is no big deal and she isn’t bothered in the least.

Shyama chewing her cud

Taking care of cows in a cold climate is definitely full of challenges not found in a warm climate. Hay has to be grown, harvested, and moved to the cows. Shelter has to provided from the wind, snow, and ice that is sufficient for the long winter months. Labor is needed to feed the cows daily. Frostless water hydrants and troughs must be operating to supply water. For those cows that are old and diseased, separate yet connected shelter gives them comfort in the cold months. All this and more as opposed to constant grazing on green pastures that is allowed in a warm climate.

submitted by Chayadevi

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hay = Food for the Winter Months


Feeding out a big bale by unwrapping

The first step in harvesting hay is mowing the standing crop and laying it in windrows. A rake is equipment used to move the mowed windrow across the soil surface or remaining crop stubble, creating a narrower windrow that will dry more rapidly. Hay balers are farm machines that pack and tie field-dried hay into more dense hay bundles, called bales, for convenient handling, storage, and transportation. Hay balers are grouped by the type of dense bundle or "bale" produced; small square/rectangular, large round, and large square/rectangular.

Large hay bales were introduced with large round balers during the 1970s. Large round bales with diameters of 4, 5, or 6 feet and widths of 4 or 5 feet can contain between 1000 to 2000 pounds of hay (roughly the equivalent of 20 to 45 small square bales) and are too heavy to handle manually.

Compared to small square bales, making large round bales reduces the number of bales the farmer/rancher needs to handle and may save in reduced handling and labor costs.

We receive large round bales from the New Vrindavan cow department since the majority of our cows come from the New Vrindavan herd. Once these large bales are placed in the barn, the twine can be cut and removed and the hay placed in the feed aisle with a pitchfork. Either the round bale can be unrolled and plates of it put in the feed aisle or the hay removed from the bale by simply manually unwrapping and then placing it in the feed aisle.

Our barns are designed with an upper floor above the feed aisle where the large bales are placed. This makes it easier as there is a downward thrust to place the hay in the feed aisle. Gravity is working with us. However, it is still a labor-intensive service and takes about 3 hours everyday in the winter months. That time includes covering all the cow dung with old hay each day. We have a system of bedding that layers the dung and hay creating a soft warm bed in the winter.